2.7 Billion Miles

Ad Astra is a rare studio feature. While space travel is typically met with disaster on film (whether by aliens, asteroids, or technical malfunction) and heroes save us all, Ad Astra applies a cynical net to this traditional fiction.

In Ad Astra’s near future, space travel became commercial. A blanket costs $125 while on en route to the moon. On arrival, there’s no moon left – instead, it’s a strip mall where brands run operations as they do Earthside. Anyone who dares exit those walls becomes embroiled in international territory wars as countries fight for mining rights. People ruin everything in Ad Astra’s eyes.

On Mars, conspiracy looms. Governments hide truth from an experienced, emotionally disconnected astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt). He’s on a mission to reach his father on Neptune after a disaster unleashes anti-matter at Earth. Ad Astra then turns space into a metaphor for the distance left by absent parents, and the kids willing to push their way through adversity to reconnect. Still though, the secrets and lies plague this journey. Roy is again left alone. In that (and Ad Astra’s quiet, contemplative style), Roy’s life remains unchanged even by the magnificence around him in space.

Ad Astra then turns space into a metaphor for the distance left by absent parents

Humanity is never satisfied. That’s Ad Astra’s conclusion. While visions today show standard moon flights as fantasy, Ad Astra makes them mundane. Roy’s father headed to Neptune seeking extraterrestrial intelligence, the next step beyond Earth’s moon, looking for purpose in the stars. Without it, hopeless isolation grows. Human achievement no longer holds meaning. Scientific exertion is useless.

That’s Ad Astra’s thesis: Without connection, we do not matter. Inevitable conflict arises from ourselves. No wonder Roy’s father sought something greater. Kennedy’s lofty dreams turned into a crass cash grab. Our expansion only makes things worse.

For Roy, he still holds hope – the beauty of it all, the mystery, will someday bring us all together. Ad Astra makes that case with bountiful visual effects. Traveling past Jupiter creates pure awe. A final act near Neptune is cloaked in fetching rings and unearthly blue glow. It’s dazzling and dream like, even hypnotic. Yet, like our reality, centuries eroded those thrills. The same politics and greed keep our species land locked and cyclical. Roy’s father is emblematic of that disdain and persistent want to grow further apart from each other. Being in the same space only creates hate. Ad Astra’s willingness to confront those failures makes it distinct.

Video

Captured on multiple film stocks, the resulting images wrestle with grain structure. Integrity is typically maintained. Certain shots fall to artifacting, visibly so, mostly when dealing with Mars and the reddish tint. When in check, Ad Astra reproduces the source cleanly, rendering clean grain.

Finished at 2K, upscaling preserves firm, tight detail. Space-focused wide shots bring planetary sights to incredible sharpness. Even the complex ships created via visual effects show no aliasing or other typical fault. In close, facial definition hits a notable peak, even when viewed through a helmet visor. Spacesuits bring intricate touches, of which this disc presents.

Thank the sun in this case – the HDR emboldens reflective metals, while strengthening shots in space. Pure black acts as the best contrast, not only lending space its power, but allowing glowing planet surfaces or shimmering ships to reach their fullest grade. It’s intense.

Ad Astra uses countless palettes, some droll, some saturated. Location dictates all. Greens, blues, and reds take over at times. That’s not a negative. Each excels.

Audio

Smart audio design leaves space silent, bringing sound only through proper perspective. An early crisis creates a tremendous fireball, felt entirely in the low-end from Pitt’s own sight line. Extreme range hammers the subwoofer, not a mix seeking delicate flourishes. Rather, rockets lift off and push hard for dramatic scale. Each launch is demonstration worthy.

When in oxygen-based environments, Ad Astra finds ambient opportunity. Say, traveling on the moon’s subway. Overheads and rears envelope for a realistic effect. Remarkable skill is displayed when a fire extinguisher breaks free inside a ship, sending the object between speakers as it hisses. Late, an empty interior produces a dialog echo, filling the available channels. Splendid stuff.

Extras

On the UHD, director James Gray gives a commentary. This is also on the Blu-ray where the other extras reside like two deleted scenes running 3:25 total; Gray gives additional commentary here too, optionally. Featurettes follow, the first titled To the Stars running eight minutes, explaining the story origins. A Man Named Roy focuses on Pitt’s performance, nearing nine minutes, while a follow-up provides insight into the full cast for nine minutes. Eleven minutes focus on the art/creativity involved. Finally, Reach for the Stars interviews cast and crew about their feelings on space travel.

Ad Astra
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Cynical and harsh, Ad Astra isn’t afraid to demean humanity’s efforts in space when viewed through a family separation.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 39 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: